For the Least of These
It was in the volatile, crazy, environment of the late 60’s, in high school, that I met David. He was a quiet, shy, nerdy kid who always struggled in school. Many classmates teased him relentlessly – but I kind of felt sorry for him. Having been the target of numerous nasty pranks and attacks myself, David and I had something in common – a sort of unlikely bond. We were both outcasts. In the summers, my father made me attend school to get extra credit; David was there because he had to catch up from failed courses during the year. He never had clean shirts, rarely wore socks, had filthy shoes with dots all over them, and a haircut like he had put a bowl over his head and gone crazy with a scissors. And boy, was he scrawny – one of the thinnest people I had ever seen.
There was a rumor that David’s mother had died of cancer the year before, but he never talked about it and nobody knew for sure. He got his nickname after people noticed that after gym, he would take a shower, sometimes, and then proceed to put his shirt and pants on without drying off first- he got hung with the nickname “Drip Dry”. People were cruel, but he never said an unkind word or retaliated in any way.
Well, on the morning of Nov. 3, 1969, a Monday, we were in gym together, and I broke my leg when I collided with a friend of mine. I was given an early dismissal. It was before 9:00 am, and after being released from school, I was sitting outside waiting to be picked up by my mother before going to the hospital for x-rays. I was surprised to see David also waiting to be picked up. As a car came into view and headed to the area where we were waiting, David sat down on the curb. He had not spoken to me, not even a word, but it was evident that his ride had arrived. The door to the car opened and a man, obviously David’s dad, turned to exit the driver’s seat. I noticed the numerous ladders, tarps and brushes in the back of the station wagon. He was wearing spotted black pants, no belt, a dirty white shirt, white socks and no shoes….
I watched in silence as David took off his shoes and gave them to his father. Then David walked around the front of the car to get in the passenger side. I realized that the spots on his shoes were from paint splatters, and I immediately understood. I am sure he didn’t wear tee shirts, or socks, because they couldn’t afford them. Perhaps medical bills from his mother’s illness sucked every last drop of money from their family. Or maybe his Dad struggled for work and did the best he could – as mother and father to David. He never mentioned that incident to me, or to anyone else that I know of.
But witnessing that event changed me. From that moment on, I did everything I could to assist “Drip Dry”. I helped him with homework, always at school, played chess with him and tried to be a friend to him. I took a lot for flak for that from my classmates. But I was relentless in my pursuit to walk beside him. I even wondered if he never dried off because his family didn’t have towels at home, and getting dressed while still wet was customary and familiar to him. There’s no point giving you additional details – I am sure you understand. But suffice it to say that I never met anyone like David – he was from a world I did not even know existed.
So what did I learn from this chance encounter? That David is a child of God – and Christ loves him, just like He loves you, and me. Christ says it best Himself in Matt 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
And that’s the point – David was a brother. But even if he wasn’t, it does not make any difference, because Christ made it clear that He died for everyone – all sinners, all those in need of redemption. So my encouragement today is to heed the petition of Christ to take care of the least of these. Because the cause of Christ on this earth is served whenever you reach out to the Davids of this world. We run across them all the time – but hardly notice them, and we rarely stop. So this week-end, if you have the chance to leave an extra large tip or buy a stranger a cup of coffee, or pay a toll for the person behind you, remember that you are being an ambassador of Christ. And you won’t believe the way you feel when you extend that random act of kindness.
My prayer is that you will celebrate your blessings – and share them with people you normally would not think to bless. And I don’t mean some arm’s length transaction; like giving clothes to Goodwill, or throwing a few extra bucks in the plate at church. Do something authentic, real, genuine and in person; for a specific person. Christ will be proud of you – and you will have been obedient to one of His great encouragements to us. God bless your effort.